Birth control costs spike off campus, too

Where's the outrage about hard-hit community clinics?

By Lynn Harris

Published December 19, 2007 4:34PM (EST)

Guilty! First, of referencing (the very deserving) RH Reality Check twice in two blog posts. Second, of having committed exactly the sin of omission that RH's Amanda Marcotte points out: that media coverage of the budgeting goof that stopped drug companies from offering discounts to college health clinics -- resulting in skyrocketing prices -- frequently glosses over or leaves out the fact that the same glitch also affects 400 community health centers who primarily serve poor women.

"Most of the coverage has focused entirely on the plight of college girls deprived of their pills, with very little attention paid to the patients at community health clinics, who may not all be going to college but mostly fall within the same age range as the college students who take the pill," Marcotte notes. "Why the big hole in the coverage?"

Classism? Check. Of course, not all college students are loaded layabouts; that's partly why the crazy-high pricing is a problem in the first place. But still. It's about our image, complete or not, of college and its students. "The poor getting screwed over in America is as shocking a news story as, 'Winter came around again this year.' But middle class entitlements getting cut creates havoc, upsets the natural order of things," writes Marcotte. "[This] prejudice infects the coverage of the birth control pill discounts."

Speaking of the prevailing image of college students, these days, it often contains nudity. Marcotte also blames "soft core porn poisoning" (Girls Gone Wild, Women of the [YOUR COLLEGE HERE] pictorials) for our prurient interest in anything suggesting co-eds! having! sex! She also goes a step farther: "Women's growing successes with higher education correlates so strongly with the rise in pornified images of college women that it suggests some kind of linkage, as if the more women prove that they're full human beings capable of engaging in the world on every level, the more society has to push back and cough up a stream of images insisting that college women are nothing but dumb sluts." (I've been fortunate enough not to have seen coverage of the contraceptive-pricing issue that explicitly goes there, but I see her point in theory.)

Finally, of course, college women, no matter what their individual incomes or dumb-slut demands, generally have more readily accessible means of protesting, and that gets ink.

"None of which is to say that it's wrong or bad for college kids to stand up for themselves and get attention to their cause," Marcotte writes. "On the contrary; these kids deserve all the help and encouragement they're getting. The focus should be on seeking ways to extend their privileges to others."

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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